This Latino Week

Chile introduces gay marriage bill, Guatemalan President faces calls to resign, World Cup qualifiers heat up, Venezuelan Congress sidelined, Buenos Aires Herald closes
Jim McKenna

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has signed a bill that allows for same-sex marriage within the country, claiming that ‘old prejudices’ cannot overcome true love. The bill will now be debated in both houses of congress, which is likely to be a lengthy process, but LGBTQ+ groups within Chile are delighted with the progress made in this field, after years of demanding marriage for same-sex relationships.

The move may be followed by changes to the rules regarding adoption. Bachelet said that she was looking to give all married couples the opportunity to adopt, including newly married same-sex couples. Same-sex civil unions were legalised in 2015, but the battle for equal marriage has found resistance from a variety of generally conservative-leaning groups, including political rivals to the current President. This proposal was passed just a week after Chile’s Constitutional Court overturned a total ban on abortion, which had existed since the days of Pinochet regime.

Guatemalan President faces calls to resign

Jimmy Morales, one-time comic actor and current leader of Guatemala, has faced heavy criticism for his decision to remove the head of an anti-corruption mission issues by the United Nations. Prosecutors within the country cited irregularities in 2015 electoral expenses as a justification for allowing Colombian Iván Velásquez, a widely-respected investigator, into the country to further examine the claims.

Morales claimed that Velásquez had meddled in domestic matters that are ‘the sole responsibility of Guatemalan state’ as a reason for his expulsion, although at the time of writing he has not elaborated upon what this intervention was. The move was widely unpopular, with nationwide protests against Morales and at least eight high-level government officials resigning, with another two being sacked.

The President, who campaigned with the tagline Ni corrupto, ni ladrón (neither corrupt nor a thief), and often focused on the perceived corruption of the previous government, won the 2015 election in a surprising result for his centre-right National Convergence Front. His premiership has been dominated by claims of corruption and misuse of funds, with his older brother and senior advisor Sammy Morales being arrested on charges of money laundering earlier this year.


World Cup qualifiers heat up

The next two weeks see the race to qualify for the 2018 World Cup reach a penultimate stage, with two of the remaining four qualifying games in South America to be contested between the ten teams. Brazil, under the management of Tite, have already qualified for the finals, and will probably use the final four matches to try out new systems and personnel. Outside of this, the remaining three automatic slots and another play-off place are heavily contested, with four points separating second-placed Colombia from Ecuador in sixth. The most interesting team is Argentina, the team ranked first in the world when the qualifiers began. They sit in fifth on 22 points, which is currently only enough to secure a play-off versus the winner of the Oceanic tie between New Zealand and the Solomon Islands. However, they remain one point behind automatic qualification, and rivals Uruguay and Chile. The tie of the round is likely to be Uruguay’s home game versus Argentina, as well as Colombia’s match against Brazil.

In CONCACAF, the regional qualification system for North America and the Caribbean, Mexico are overwhelming favourites to automatically qualify for Russia, with an unbeaten record over the six games played in the final stage. Costa Rica, the United States, Panama and Honduras are likely to be contesting the remaining two automatic qualification berths, as well as a play-off spot for the side that finished fourth in the six-team ‘hexagonal’ group. The sixth team, Trinidad and Tobago, are underdogs and highly unlikely to even secure the fourth-placed spot.

Venezuelan Congress sidelined

The National Constituent Assembly of Venezuela (ANC) has assumed widespread rights to legislate over domestic matters – in effect marginalising the opposition-led Congress. The move, which effectively allows President Maduro a free hand to formulate policy, has received widespread condemnation from domestic and international groups.

The shift in power is not surprising with wider context. Maduro had long attempted to sideline opposition groups within Venezuela, and the ANC elections were in effect uncontested due to opposition protests, in effect guaranteeing Maduro a government-dominated legislative branch. The Congress remains the only part of Venezuelan politics that is controlled by the opposition, and this week follows a similar attempt by the Chavista-dominated Supreme Court to assume power over Congress.

It is unclear how opposition groups will react to Maduro’s latest attempt to entrench his power, although it is clear that any attempts to pass legislation through the ANC will be resisted. The Supreme Court attempts in March led to protests and the deaths of around 100 people, and it is hoped that this attempt will not result in similar fatalities.

Buenos Aires Herald closes

The Buenos Aires Herald, an English-language newspaper in Latin America, announced its closure this week, after more than 140 years of publication. The move comes following a decision last year to switch to a weekly print publication, with focus being placed on daily updates online.

The move has been blamed on changing consumer tastes, as well as tough economic conditions in Argentina and financial losses. The Herald has traditionally been heavily associated with English-speaking communities – initially British workers based in Latin America, and later U.S. communities. The paper was renowned for its journalistic approach, and was widely praised for its decision to report on the ‘disappearances’ of Argentinians during the days of the country’s junta.

The Herald had traditionally prided itself on being the only English-language daily newspaper for Latin American news, and its closure leaves a substantial gap in reporting on Latin American matters for English-speaking audiences.